01 Jul / The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina, translated by Lucy Rand [in Booklist]
The titular phone booth is real: it stands at Bell Gardia in coastal Ōtsuchi, Japan, built in 2010 to communicate with a dead relative via an unconnected phone that carries conversations into the wind. Since the March 2011 Tōhoku disaster, 30,000 visitors have sought its comfort as they speak to lost loved ones. Italian-born, Japanese-domiciled Laura Imai Messina’s latest novel – already an international bestseller – uses Bell Gardia as the transformative setting in which two grieving souls tentatively, achingly, learn to love again.
Actor/poet Traci Kato-Kiriyama draws on her Japanese heritage to create a fluent, effortless narration, gently lingering over the intimate unveiling of diverse characters united by loss and longing. Yui and Takeshi are “left behind” survivors: the tsunami stole Yui’s mother and three-year-old daughter; illness took Takeshi’s wife, leaving their daughter Hana mute. A chance meeting turns into monthly pilgrimages from Tokyo to Ōtsuchi where Yui and Takeshi also meet fellow mourners – a father frustrated with his drowned son, a student missing his demanding mother, a son carrying his father’s Bible.
Time continues to deepen bonds as Yui and Takeshi cautiously allow their hearts to welcome hope, joy, and ultimately each other. In a story inspired by tragedy, Messina and Kato-Kiriyama complementarily deliver a profound path toward wondrous healing.
Review: “Media,” Booklist, June 1, 2021
Published: 2015 (Italy), 2021 (United States)